If you were anything but network TV, you had a banner year. However, if you were one of the Big Five, then other than a handful of shows, it was pretty desolate. The best of network TV included only one new show, Scorpion, and three older ones, Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn 99, Supernatural and Marvel Agents of Shield and none of those were good enough to crack my top five which contains exactly one network show and it was an ancient reality show now banished to Fridays. The worst list is understandably chock full of network losers, particularly for NBC which had an awful year.
BEST OF TV 2014
5)BBC- Two of favorite shows this year from England had to be Sherlock and Dr. Who. The funny part is that while I am a huge fan of Sherlock I could give or take Dr. Who for the most part. But the addition of Peter Capaldi as the new doctor has added real relevance to the part and Jenna Coleman shines as his companion. The Christmas episode, a combination of Alien and the Thing (with good reason it turns out) was scary, funny and, somehow, Christmassy, thanks to Nick Frost's excellent turn as Santa. Sherlock Holmes continues to glow bright as Benedict Cumberbatch makes one of the best versions of the sleuth ever. The wedding episode The Vow was one of the funniest things on any network this year. Martin Freeman was in two shows on this list as well, only hampered by a terrible turn on SNL that was the writers fault, but did contain one of the few bright spots in a bad year with the very funny Office: Middle Earth sketch. Come on BBC, bring us Mrs. Brown's Boys already.
4)Reality shows- There were two great reality shows, both game oriented, The Amazing Race and @Midnight. Amazing Race has been on for what seems like forever, but unlike Survivor which got boring decades ago, it has still remained fresh, exciting and even when they return to the same countries, they do different things and go to new places. I love this show. The mock game show @Midnight has been a laugh riot thanks to Chris Hardwick who also hosts the unbelievably interesting post Walking Dead talker, Talking Dead. Other networks have attempted to do similar things, like a Sons of Anarchy post show, but was dragged down by a host who got fired after the second outing. Ouch! @Midnight has been one of the most consistently funny shows of the year with my favorite parts being cringe worthy, rapid refresh and various strange Craigslist ads. Keep up the good work guys. I need a good laugh every night.
3)Cable Dramas- If you wanted excellent dramas, cable had the best. Game of Thrones was awesome this year with the standout episode being (SPOILER ALERT) the death of King Joffrey and the subsequent trial of Tyrion Lannister. My favorite moment was Ayla standing over the Hound and deciding not to kill him but to let him suffer a horribly painful, and very slow death. Fargo broke all the rules and became a stand out show again demonstrating why Martin Freeman is a much sought after actor. The tracking shot of Lorne Malvo's killing rampage seen only from the outside of the building, accompanied by crashes and screams was one of my favorite moments from any TV show. Allison Tolman had a break out year as cop Molly Solverson and I look forward to seeing her in other things as well. Walking Dead continues to amaze and break records for viewers who watch live as people HAVE to know what happens next. The best episode by far was the one with (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN) Carol kills Lizzie, a stunner and was reminiscent of Of Mice And Men. The escape from Terminus and Beth's senseless death were also incredible. The best cable drama was Sons of Anarchy which ended it's seven year run with a bang as a lot of people got killed, some survived you didn't expect (Tig I am looking at you) and ended the way it should have, unlike say Dexter or the Sopranos.
2)Comedy Central Sketch Comedy- These guys are on fire this year with three hysterical shows, Inside Amy Schumer, Key and Peele and Drunk History. Notice that so far they have four shows, and one more to come, in my best of list which means they by and far the best network on TV right now. Amy Schumer's show is biting humor with her best being her Call of Duty sketch which had her pick a female avatar who instead of fighting, gets raped instead and then fights military bureaucracy to get her assailant arrested. The fact it wasn't funny at all (rape isn't funny) made this one of my favorite sketches from anyone this year. Key and Peele continue to show that being black doesn't mean being racist toward white people is funny (although to be fair both of them are half white). They skewer everyone equally and it never comes across as mean or ugly. The sketch of a "live" dance show, where one of the dancers finds out his wife and kids are dead and the guy dancing next to him did it was a classic bit. Drunk History continues to amaze as they combine binge drinking and actual history as a drunken narrator overlays famous people acting out a historical story that a person is saying, puking, mumbling or whatever. Any way you look at it, it's funny.
1)Comedy News shows- No one did better this year than Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and John Oliver. And while he doesn't necessarily fit into this category, Jimmy Fallon knocked it out of the park this year with his new Tonight Show routines that have brightened it up immensely. The first episode which had celebrities paying him $100 was a classic bit Carson would have been proud of. Conan O'Brian was not missed here. Colbert said good bye to his show which I will admit I thought was hit or miss and found his character a litter overbearing and his interview style off putting. But he did have some great moments this year and a lot of people will miss him until he appears soon on CBS as Letterman's replacement. Jon Stewart continues to light up the 11 O'clock spot night after night with spot on commentary and some of the best news on TV in general which is kind of sad when you think about it. But no one, and I mean NO ONE, was as funny, informative and must see TV this year as John Oliver's new show Last Week Tonight which has invented a new form of TV, investigative comedy, which is kind of what I do here. His topics ranged from Net Neutrality, to Ferguson to the Miss America pageant and always came out on top with better news than anyone else. News networks should take a clue from this and maybe, just maybe, do their freaking jobs because Oliver is making you all look bad. He was by and far the best TV of 2014.
WORST OF 2014
5)Remakes- There were two awful remakes this year: Gracepoint and Rosemary's Baby. The former was almost a shot for shot remake of the far superior original that was so boring I haven't even watched the last two episodes yet. David Tennant, who shone in the original, barely registers here and supports of dubious American accent at best. Allegedly they changed the killer at the end, but as the rest of the show was a carbon copy of the original, nobody cared and ratings for this turkey tanked. Rosemary's Baby was every bit as bad, moving the location to Paris and then doing nothing with it. Zoe Saldana has never been this bad and her husband played blandly by Suits star Patrick J Adams, barely registers at all. This dragged on for four hours over two nights and it seemed to go on for a lot longer than that. Watch the original for either for a much better time and forget these clones even exist.
4)Sci-fi- Two science fiction shows stumbled badly this year, Extant and Ascension. Extant was even more puzzling as Academy Award winner Halle Berry was in it and had a great premise: an astronaut comes back from a solo mission pregnant. There were so many places to go with this and instead saddled her with a creepy robot kid straight out of the far superior AI and terrible sub characters like Camryn Manheim and Gorin Visnjic, who seemed to be in a different show altogether. Ascension turned another promising story, JFK sends people into space should the world be destroyed and turns it into a slog of a soap opera. Sci-fi fans deserve better than these two.
3)Reality Shows- There were a lot of bad reality shows this year. X Factor finally went away after three dismal seasons, and now comes word that it may come back.WTF? WHY? Wasn't three seasons enough? Fox also gave us Utopia, which cost $50 million and died a painful death and I Wanna Marry Harry, a piss poor dating show that sank after four episodes. Cable did no better with Duck Dynasty on it's last legs, the sinking rating of any of the Kardashian shows (seriously who is watching these idiots) and the thankful cancelation of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo after Mama June started dating a convicted child molester. There are so many of these shows that I have neither the time nor patience to list them all. Turn on E! on any given night and chances are one of them should be one here.
2)NBC comedies- Remember when NBC had the greatest comedies of all time. Shows like Cheers, Family Ties, Wings, Seinfeld, hell even Golden Girls was better than what they have on now. Bad Judge and From A to Z, both of which I correctly predicted wouldn't last long, didn't and they seem to have few prospects on the horizon other than one sitcom from last summer I absolutely loved, Undateable. They tried to get Bill Cosby back but after his raping past came back to haunt him, NBC was forced to give the comic $10 million for his pay or play deal. That was money well spent. Apparently they learned nothing from the Michael J. Fox debacle from last season that also cost them a fortune. One of the biggest disappointments this year has been SNL which has suffered from seriously questionable cast additions. Four of the six new people from last year got axed and two veterans left for greener pastures. This year saw the addition of Leslie Jones, who is the only bright spot even if she did flub a sketch with Chris Rock, with her Weekend Update routines some of the funniest of the year. Colin Jost has been an absolute flop in the anchor chair and is in my opinion, the worst ever. Michael Che is okay, but the stale writing and complete lack of chemistry with Jost is palpable and is making what was once the best moments a chore now to get through. Hosts like Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and Martin Freeman were all betrayed by sub par writing and even the Christmas episode was lacking this year for the first time in eons. Also, can we stop with the flavor of the day bands and get some people on there who can actually play. We have been subjected to One Direction, Iggy Azalea, and Charlie XCX, not to mention a host of even more forgettable acts. People who watch SNL are not 12. This show needs a lot of work and some firings to get things back to the way they should be.
1)Voice Over comedies- I HATE voice overs. As someone who has written screenplays and for television the number one thing that you shouldn't do is a voice over. It is a lazy way to move the story along and while it works on rare occasions like Fight Club or Dexter, most of the time it's just bad writing. And three shows this year overdid this something fierce. The first cancelled sitcom (as I predicted) Manhattan Love Story did this ad naseum to such an extent you wanted someone to hit mute to get some blessed silence. Selfie, which had two very good actors, was written so poorly that I wanted to smack John Cho and Karen Gillian for doing this drek. The worst of the worst this year is the beyond racist show Blackish which also managed to have an awful voice over constantly and combine that with the buffoon dad that was old a decade ago. How is making fun of white people funny? Why is this not as racist as black face is for black people? No one I know from any age group liked this show and a lot of people were pissed at it. Even my black friends concede it is a little racist. As if race relations are not bad enough. The fact that critics love this show say how out of touch people who review things are with the regular public. Congratulations Blackish you are the worst show of 2014.